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Characteristics of Users and Reported Effects of the Wim Hof Method : A Mixed-Methods Study

Allen, J.J. (2018) Characteristics of Users and Reported Effects of the Wim Hof Method : A Mixed-Methods Study.

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Abstract:Background: The Wim Hof Method (WHM) consists of a combination of cold-exposure, breathing exercises and yoga postures, designed to offer users a means to gain increased control over the physiology. Despite a growing body of research surrounding this method, the full scope of the effects of the method are still undocumented. Nevertheless, the method has attracted thousands of practitioners. This mixed-methods study aimed to study the characteristics of this group, as well as the reported effects, factors underlying these effects and possible improvements that can be made to the method. Methods: An online questionnaire was created, and circulated on various Facebook-groups, resulting in 241 respondents filling in the questionnaire. This questionnaire contained questions regarding how respondents found out about the method; whether they tried the method; motivations or expectations for trying the method; duration and frequency of practice; positive changes; negative changes; whether they were suffering from specific complaints/conditions prior to beginning the practice; and whether they were willing to participate in follow-up interviews. Results were descriptively analyzed by the researcher. Follow-up interviews were conducted with 16 individuals using an interview schedule based on Elliott's (2008) Client Change Interview Schedule. The interviews were conducted in order to acquire additional, qualitative data regarding general information regarding their condition and experience with the method; changes; attributions; resources; limitations; helpful aspects of the method; problematic aspects of the method and suggestions for improvement. These interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed and inductively analyzed by the researcher Results: The user group appears to be comprised primarily of North American and European men aged 30-60, motivated by health consciousness and curiosity, who learn about the WHM online or by word of mouth. Most of them experienced mostly positive changes attributed to the WHM, although some negative changes were reported as well. Most commonly reported positive changes were changes in energy levels; mood; overall well-being; stress and anxiety; focus and awareness; respiration; a sense of spiritual connectedness to the Self; immunity; physical stress and tension; a sense of spiritual connectedness to nature; and body temperature. The most commonly reported negative change was difficulty sleeping. The changes are primarily attributed to adaptation to stress and increased control over the physiology. Other factors to which the changes are attributed are a sense of community; greater connectedness to one's own body and feelings; internal agents that promote/prevent change (mindset; discipline; motivation; overall health; prior spiritual experiences; knowledge); external agents that promote/prevent change (life circumstances; Wim Hof; social resources; social barriers; availability of (sufficiently) cold water; accessibility and simplicity of the method; external stressors; immersion, language) and interactions with other treatments/practices. Conclusions: Notably, most of the participants were men aged 30-60. This could reflect characteristics inherent to the WHM. It is also notable that changes across physical, psychological, social and spiritual domains are observed, and atttributed tothe WHM. Interview participants attribute these primarily to adaptation to stress and increased control over the physiology. The wide range of observed effects suggests that the WHM is a simple and accessible tool that has possible applications in many different contexts, primarily with regard to mood- and anxiety-related symptoms. This study provides a framework for future research that needs to be conducted with regard to these various effects, as well as possible negative effects. Keywords: Wim Hof Method, Yoga, Meditation, Breathing exercises, Cold-exposure, Mixed-method, Online questionnaire, Interviews
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:77 psychology
Programme:Psychology MSc (66604)
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